Obama Picks the Moments That Made His Legacy

President takes a long look back at the past 8 years
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2016 3:48 PM CDT
The White House is illuminated as the sun sets, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009, as President Barack Obama waits to hear the final vote on his stimulus plan on Capitol Hill.   (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

(Newser) – President Obama has less than four months before he becomes former President Obama, and with the 20/20 vision of hindsight aimed at the last eight years, he sits down with Jonathan Chait of New York to pick out the moments that will define his legacy.

  • Mitch McConnell's "one-term president" heard 'round the world: Right out of the gate, Obama says the GOP made "a calculation based on what turned out to be pretty smart politics but really bad for the country: If they were able to maintain uniform opposition to whatever I proposed, that would send a signal to the public of gridlock, dysfunction, and that would help them win seats in the midterms. It established the dynamic for not just my presidency but for a much sharper party-line approach to managing both the House and the Senate that I think is going to have consequences for years to come."

  • The rise of Donald Trump: "I see a straight line from the announcement of Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential nominee to what we see today in Donald Trump, the emergence of the Freedom Caucus, the tea party, and the shift in the center of gravity for the Republican Party. Whether that changes, I think, will depend in part on the outcome of this election, but it’s also going to depend on the degree of self-reflection inside the Republican Party. There have been at least a couple of other times that I’ve said confidently that the fever is going to have to break, but it just seems to get worse."
  • Getting ObamaCare done: After the Democrats lost their super majority along with Teddy Kennedy's seat, with health reform looking unlikely, Obama says he asked Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, "'Are you guys still game? Because if you guys are still game, we’ll find a way. But I can’t do it unless Democrats are willing to take what are going to be some tough votes.' ... And certainly Nancy and Harry were willing to do it. We saw that again later on some tough budget votes, and the Iran deal, and I give them enormous credit for that. So once Nancy said, 'I’m game,' then it was really just a set of tactical questions: What legislative mechanisms could we use to advance legislation that was 90% to 95% done?"
Chait's full interview, which touches on the BP oil spill, drones, and more, is here. (Read more President Obama stories.)

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